Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Ellensburg sky for the week of 11/27/10

Saturday: Jupiter is four fists held upright and at arm’s length above due south at a little after 7:00 p.m.

Sunday: This morning’s last quarter moon is in the constellation Sextans the sextant. Sextans is a dim constellation below the constellation Leo that was originated by Johannes Hevelius in 1687. Hevelius continued to use a sextant for studying the sky long after telescopes were available making him the last major astronomer to do major work without a telescope.

Monday: Have you been shopping all weekend? Do you need an evening sky break? You deserve a big reward so make it a double. A Double Cluster, that is. The Double Cluster, also known as h and Chi Persei, consists of two young open star clusters in the constellation Perseus. Of course, young is a relative term as these clusters are about 13 million years old. Each cluster is spread out over an area about the same size as the full moon. To the naked eye, the Double Cluster shines with a steady, fuzzy glow. Binoculars resolve dozens of individual stars in the clusters. The Double Cluster is six and a half fists above the northeast horizon at 7 p.m., about a fist below the sideways “W” of Cassiopeia.

Tuesday: Are you cold? Tired of the blowing snow? Then get up this morning and look at Saturn, the bright point of light three fists above the southeast horizon. Saturn will not make you warmer. But thinking about its ice moon Enceladus might. Enceladus has numerous geysers that spew ice particles with an aggressiveness that makes the Ellensburg wind feel wimpy – up to 1000 miles per hour. To learn more about Enceladus and its geysers, go to http://www.astronomy.com/en/sitecore/content/Home/News-Observing/News/2008/02/Enceladus%20geyser%20findings.aspx. If you have a small telescope, you may be able to see Enceladus nearly touching the rings of Saturn this morning.

Wednesday: Do you like to look in a nursery and say “it’s a boy” or “it’s a girl”? Not me. I say, “it’s a star”. Of course, I like looking into a stellar nursery – a star forming region such as the Orion Nebula in the middle of Orion’s sword holder. The Orion Nebula looks like a fuzzy patch to the naked eye. Binoculars reveal a nebula, or region of gas and dust, that is 30 light years across. The center of the nebula contains four hot “baby” stars called the Trapezium. These hot stars emit the ultraviolet radiation that causes the Nebula’s gas to glow. The Orion Nebula is three fists above the southeast horizon at 11 p.m. For more information about the Orion Nebula, go to http://astronomy2009.nasa.gov/observe_dec.htm.

Thursday: Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky, is more than one fist above due southeast at 11 p.m.

Friday: Venus is nearly two fists above the southeast horizon at 6 a.m.

The positional information in this column about stars and planets is typically accurate for the entire week.

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